We think that we have been through a lot over the last few months. And many of us have. Those who have suffered from this terrible disease, those who have lost relatives and friends to it; nurses, doctors, care workers in long-term residential homes and so many others must feel as if they have been through the mangle.
Yet for most of us- so far – it’s been a series of (embarrassingly not too unpleasant) phases. Back in March there was a sense of shock, then a kind of Dunkirk spirit, typified, perhaps by the volunteering and the weekly clapping. Then, as the virus seemed to recede, and life started to get back to something resembling normal we had a mixture of relief; together with a worry that it might be a false dawn. Philippa and I had a very jolly dinner at that excellent pub, The White Hart at Ford, and said a word of thanks to Rishi Sunak for the £20 he saved us. It was my last meal out before a 2-week period of self-isolation prior to my hip operation on 19 August.
Then we had national debates over face masks, social distancing, whether or not the Government had got it right; then we started to realise the awful economic consequences of the Pandemic and attention turned to what we can do to save jobs and livelihoods. The very odd debate between schools and pubs is typical of that.
And now, with a sinking feeling, we watch the second spikes developing on the Continent and elsewhere; we see travel restrictions on Spain being reimposed; we hear about local outbreaks - in Leicester and the North of England, and now even a very localised one in Swindon. We see irresponsible folk cramming onto beaches; and we hear horrifying thoughts of everyone over 50 years of age being put into some kind of mad lockdown. (Will the PM be locked down in No 10 or in Chequers?) We are not through this one yet; and it is vitally important that everyone abides by the rules and regulations to a ‘T’ if we are to prevent the virus reviving itself and causing untold pain and misery and death over the Autumn.
The words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘rollercoaster’ are much overused. Yet a glimpse of true horror in Beirut should make us glad to be alive and living in relative peace prosperity and security. Lebanon is virtually bankrupt, Beirut totally so. They have 1 million refugees from Syria; that murdering organisation Hezbollah runs most things; they have had a most horrifying level of Covid infection; and, of course Syria and Iraq are just a few hundred miles away. Things are pretty bad in Lebanon as a whole, and Beirut in particular. And now into all of that comes this horrific explosion, the massive loss of life and injury from it; and the destruction of that essential lifeline for an import dependant city like Beirut, its port.
I sincerely hope that it’s a result of some kind of industrial incompetence from the unsafe storage of Ammonium Nitrate (why?); but if it were in any way to be connected to terrorism or warfare, the consequences for the whole of the Middle East could well be horrifying and long-lasting.
So we may think it’s bad here. We may have our grumbles. But it might just be sobering to contemplate what life is like in Beirut. It makes our rollercoaster look pretty tame by comparison.